That very young children are at risk of drowning when there’s a swimming pool on the property is evident enough. Less well understood were any differing circumstances of drowning between younger and older children that should be considered in prevention messaging.
Phyllis Agran, MD, MPH, of the Injury and Violence Prevention Program and Department of Pediatrics, California Chapter 4, of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the University of California School of Medicine at Irvine, and colleagues, reviewed Orange County, California., coroner data from 2000 to 2007 to examine the circumstances prior to an at-home pool drowning. They presented their findings at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in Boston.
Information on 46 drownings was reviewed, including incident site, barriers and pool access, supervision, emergency preparedness and response, and family/social history. In general, more of the younger children (ages 1 and 2) were last seen in the house prior to the drowning (67%), while the older children (ages 3 and 4) were more often last seen in or near the water (69%). In addition, three specific patterns emerged:
* A one- or two-year-old child was last seen in the house, most often under the supervision of a parent or caregiver who was distracted with household or childcare activities, or in a changed daily routine
* A three- or four-year-old child who was in or near the water just prior to drowning
* A one- or two-year-old child who last seen outside, often with more neglectful supervision and environments
"Most of the one- to-two-year olds were able to access the pool without the adult supervisor realizing it. That's why pool fencing is critical," Dr. Agran, adding that any home pool should have a four-sided fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate in good condition, which is never left open.
"When in the pool or playing outside around the pool, hands-on supervision is necessary," Dr. Agran said. "Older children who drown were more often outside with inadequate supervision." Dr. Agran also concluded that parents may overestimate their child's abilities to be safe around water. Teaching children water safety and to swim will also help to reduce risk.